My best ever “tsoureki” (Greek Easter Bread)

I have been making tsoureki for many years now. Maybe it’s because I love it so much, I want to eat it all year round. This delicious sweet bread is not difficult to make but needs love and attention so some rules for optimum results.

Let me start with the texture. It needs to be stringy! Meaning, when you should knead it long enough for the gluten in the flour to expand, thus creating the strings in the dough.

Then it’s the fluffiness. Tsoureki is not supposed to be spongy and springy to the touch. It’s not supposed to be dense either. It should have a bread like texture only stringy!

About the flavour. It should have enough mastic and mahleb (cherry seeds) to feel it in your nostrils and enough orange zest to tickle your taste buds.

One of the problems I encountered while recipe testing for the millionth time, was an inconsistency to the proofing of the dough. I had doughs rising and tripling in size and I had doughs as flat as a deflated bike tire. I experimented with different methods like adding the yeast in the flour or whisking yeast in warm milk. What I discovered during these “adventures” is that yeast needs water, sugar and flour to rise to its’ full glory. I also read in one of my million cookbooks that protein in milk affects yeast and it may kill it. So, bringing milk to boiling point, then cooling it to lukewarm and then adding it to the dough, eliminates the protein. However, most of the times, I can’t be bothered to do that.

This is my go-to recipe. I have worked on it for a very long time and every time it yields fantastic results. If I had to give one advise when making tsoureki is this: Knead-knead-knead as if your life depends on it. And when you think you have kneaded the dough long enough, knead it a bit longer. That’s why I think a stand mixer is the best tool for the job.

The possibilities are endless once you get the hang of it. 3 strand braids, 4-strand, 5-strand, I have watched more you-tube videos about braiding than my hairdresser! 

Hope you will try this recipe. It’s such a delicious treat and the perfect easter gift to your loved ones.

Ingredients:

For the yeast batter:

  • 80 g water at room temperature
  • 11 g dried active yeast
  • 10 g granulated sugar
  • 40 g strong flour like bread flour (“horiatiko”)

For the dough:

  • 30 g orange peel (use a peeler to peel the orange, not a zester which will extract only the zest)
  • 130 g granulated sugar
  • 70 g milk, lukewarm
  • 2 large eggs
  • 460 g strong flour like bread flour (“horiatiko”)
  • ½ tsp mastic
  • ½ tsp mahleb seeds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125 g unsalted butter at room temperature

For glazing:

  • 1 egg
  • Sliced almonds (optional)

Method:

  1. Make the yeast batter: In a stand mixer bowl, pour in the water and sprinkle over the yeast. Whisk to dissolve the yeast. Add the sugar and flour. Whisk again to combine. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. During this time the mixture will have bubbles on the surface and it will rise. If it doesn’t, your yeast is not “working” and you should start over.
  2. Make the dough: Place orange peel and sugar in a small blender or chopper. Blend until orange peel is very finely chopped and has released all its oils. Sugar will take on an orange colour and look wet.
  3. Place bowl with yeasted batter on mixer and adjust the dough hook. Add lukewarm milk, eggs, orange flavoured sugar, flour, mastic, mahleb, salt and knead at medium-low speed for 10 minutes. Start adding the butter piece by piece. Knead 10-15 minutes more. Check the dough by pulling it. It should be soft and stretchy. 
  4. Transfer dough in a buttered bowl. Cover and let it rise at a warm place for 2-3 hours until double in size.
  5. Shape the tsoureki: Divide risen dough in three or four equal pieces (depending on how you want to braid the tsoureki). Roll each piece into a log. Join the top tip of the logs and braid the tsoureki. Place it on a baking sheet on greaseproof paper or silicon mat. Cover with a tea towel for 30 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 160 C fan.
  6. After 30 minutes, brush the entire surface of the tsoureki with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sliced almonds if you like. Transfer in the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes. Cool (if you must!) and enjoy.

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